Dentist does double duty

Dentist and horse vaulter Jessica Church balances a busy career and coaching young vaulters

Horse vaulter Jessica Church.

Jessica Church just finished a busy workday performing dental surgery. Now she balances with one leg on the back of a shiny black horse and the other extended straight up towards the rainy early evening sky with perfectly-pointed toes. Her hands hold grips on a harness on the back of the horse – called a surcingle – as  the horse canters around a circular ring at a Port McNeill area farm.

Church, an energetic and chatty young woman, has a busy career as a dentist working both in  Port McNeill and Chilliwack, yet she manages to devote significant amounts of time to her other passion of equestrian vaulting through her club, Fusion Vaulters.

While the idea of working long, involved days that often include surgeries followed by evenings coaching and teaching may seem like too much for some, it is the contrast between her two worlds that provides the versatile Church with balance in her life.

Vaulting, while not widely known outside of equestrian circles, is mesmerizing to watch. It is the performance of gymnastics and dance movements to music on a moving horse.

The horse is guided by a lunger, the name given to a person who gently directs the horse in a circle on the end of a line that is fixed to the bridle on the horse’s head.

The surcingle has grips on it that allow the vaulter more control over their movement. Before executing moves on horses, vaulters learn on a stationary barrel similarly shaped to a horse body.

Vaulters can compete as an individual, as a pair, called Pas de Deux, or as a team where six people constantly flow through a routine, with two or three people on the horse at a time.

Although she had ridden horses competitively for 16 years, Church became involved in vaulting when she was living in Victoria attending university and volunteering as an assistant coach with a therapeutic riding program.

Once she moved to Chilliwack to begin dental school, she started vaulting with a team. When they initially asked her to join, she was unsure if she was experienced enough, but joining was clearly the right move as the team ended up becoming provincial and national champions and even representing Canada internationally.

In 2012,  Church began Fusion Vaulters, allowing her to coach and foster a love for vaulting among her young members. Members range in age and live on both the lower mainland and on Vancouver Island, and they travel to competitions in BC and beyond, including one in the US earlier this year.

On this rainy Thursday evening, Church practises on the barrels in the barn at the farm of one of her young fusion vaulters, Mia Lambert. Church sits on one barrel and the two go through many different moves they have done together, some involving Lambert being smoothly lifted high into the air above Church’s head.

In competition, vaulters perform a series of mandatory moves based on their level and then a unique freestyle routine to music they choose. Church loves the creativity this allows, clear from the breadth of moves her and Lambert display.

Church, Lambert and Lambert’s mother Heather Wade guide a horse named Fin from the barn out to a circular ring. As Wade takes the lunger position,  Lambert is boosted up by Church.

Once she is atop Fin, he begins to walk and she puts two hands on the surcingle, draws her knees to the top of Fins’ back, and extends her right leg straight out behind her.

Church explains it is extremely important to treat the horses gently when performing moves, something aided by the soft and pliable shoes vaulters wear.

Church is then boosted up by Lambert, and as Fin continues to move she stands on his back, then balances upside down with her shoulder on his back and her body in the air before making an upside down splits look easy.

“I need to dispel the energy,” Church says back in the barn’s barrel room as she wipes down the white surcingle Fin was wearing. She says that she really enjoys dentistry, a job that can have her seeing more than 30 patients some days, ranging from check-ups to surgeries and requires her to be consistently aware, thorough and caring. “Your mind is just constantly working,” she says, explaining that going to stand on a horse while it is cantering is a great contrast from her days caring for patients, allowing her to engage a different part of her personality.

As Lambert and Wade leave the barn with their dogs, Church gets organized to wrap up the evening.

“When you love what you are doing, it does not feel like a job at all.”

 

Just Posted

Port Hardy RCMP cleared in arrest that left man with broken ribs, punctured lung: watchdog

The IIO noted the matter will not be referred to crown counsel for consideration of charges.

Bradshaw’s Photo Highlight: Devil’s Bath is the largest cenote in Canada

“This trail is rough and should be executed with caution”

OPINION: MP Rachel Blaney takes aim at coastal fisheries restrictions

“We all share in the responsibility of taking care of our salmon habitats and populations”

Northern Vancouver Island regional science fair winners – 2019

Daniel Kornylo won one of the 12 provincial science fair awards.

North Island Eagles select head coaches for upcoming season

“We appreciate the commitment each of you make to the club and to your teams”

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

UPDATE: West Kelowna fawn euthanized, not claimed by sanctuary

Gilbert the deer has been euthanized after a suitable home was not found in time

BC Wildfire Service warns wet weather no reason to be complacent

Fire risk currently low for much of B.C. compared to same time over last two years.

Bank of Canada lowers qualifying rate used in mortgage stress tests

Home sales softened last year after the federal government introduced new stress test rules for uninsured mortgages

B.C. man pleads guilty in snake venom death of toddler

Plea comes more than five years after the incident in North Vancouver

Trudeau says Ottawa open to proposals for B.C. refinery as gas prices soar

Prime minister says he knows B.C. residents are struggling and the federal government is open to ideas

LETTER: The constant growth of the Harvest thrift store and food bank

“we now serve the complete Northern end of Vancouver Island – everyone North of Woss!”

Most Read